Saturday, 3 February 2018

Review-Travelling Companion by The Understudies

Travelling Companion is the first material from The Understudies since 2014's landmark LP Let Desire Guide Your Hand.. I should hold my hand up here and state that I have been an admirer of their work since the very early days of the band (how can you not love a band that has a song called Chip Pan Glam?). Brian Bryden is easily, easily, in my top ten of songwriters. He somehow managed to write songs that are an amalgamation of hints (but never lifts) of everything I love about popular culture. There are suggestions of all my favourite bands in his song writing, suggestions I can never quite lay a hand on. The bands' songs bring of sense of cinéma français and kitchen sink drama, but with no obvious links or sources. So the news of a new single was a very pleasant surprise. But was it worth the wait? Well...

This record is fucking incredible, not incredible for a third division indie band (or as my partner Rachel sagely puts it 'three fans bands from Scotland no-ones ever heard of') but genuinely and inescapably brilliant. Travelling Companion is as elegant and as fragile as a swans neck. Imagine The Tindersticks covering Asleep by The Smiths with lyrics by Norman Collins. A haunting, cinematic, knowingly bookish piano led song that coldly and darkly twinkles like London frost. The piano riff is instant hookworm material, exquisitely warmed through by strings and guitar that echo Marr at his most poignant and retentive in detail. This is the work of writers who have honed and French polished their craft to a very, very fine buff. The flip side (well, not really a flip side as it's a download, it remains nothing short of a travesty it's not a 45. Something this beautiful deserves vinyl permanence) Everybody's Got To Go is a postcard from the gallows. Slightly less pretty than the A-side but with much more of a hook. It even throws in a T Rex reference at the end. I repeat, how can you not love this band?

If Clint from Pop Will Eat Itself and Alex Turner can make money from writing scores, it's a sad, pitiful world the doesn't see The Understudies writing the soundtrack to your favourite movies for the next ten years. If the rest of the material on the upcoming LP is half as strong as this showing, we have an absolute shoe-in for album of the year. I'm genuinely excited.

The single, Travelling Companion is available for download now from The band will play a set of new songs at Saint Pancras Old Church, London, on February 19th

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